This is a very long, sumptuously written book about not just Anna, but her interconnected family and the state of Russian society and culture in the late 19th century. It gives a very clear picture of what might have contributed to the Russian Revolution beyond the behaviour of the Tzars themselves. It was originally published in parts, and came out over a 4 year period of time, which increases both it’s length, and the retreading of common ground between parts–originally, people were reading it over a very protracted period of time, and might forget who was who. Which is a danger, for me, with any Russian novel. Everyone has at least three or four different names, some of them similar and some of them not, and all of them appear to be related to each other, which is initially the only way (for me) to figure out we in fact are talking about the same person.
I loved the story, but found the lead character singularly unlikable. She is the literary classic example of borderline personality disorder. She is a black and white thinker, someone who thrives on chaos, which if it doesn’t exist, she creates it. She has tremendous strengths as a person–she is creative, smart, hard working, and charming–but they are all neutralized by her crushing personality disorder. I would love to see the character enter therapy and see how the story would change.